VPN vs Remote Desktop Software: Which is Which?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a radical global shift to the remote working environment, be it within small or large organizations. I have discussed in my previous article about how Remote Desktop Software could benefit businesses and this has been beneficial even though we have been in the midst of a pandemic. Since not all companies were able to adapt in an instant for the remote work setup, many have been scrambling to figure out how to provide remote work transition with secure access to corporate applications and data, without the risk of having a security breach.

Most people tend to assume that Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Remote Desktop Software to be the same. This is somewhat correct since both provides a secure connection to applications in order to connect on a corporate network and be able to access the resources intended for the company only. However, a VPN and RDP are two very different software with different pros and cons to consider.

I will show you how a Virtual Private Network or a Remote Desktop Software compare so you can make a wise decision regarding software makes better sense for your organization or business.

Remote Desktop Software

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I have a discussed already the top remote desktop software that I recommend for use.

To recap, Remote desktop software is an application that allows a personal computer’s desktop environment to be run remotely on one computer while being displayed on a separate client device. 

When using remote desktop software, all processing would happen on the remote computer; this means that all input data such as mouse click, keyboard strokes are transmitted across the remote desktop software, which in turn reduces bandwidth requirements.

Using a remote desktop software would be as if you using your own office PC; meaning you would have access to network resources, databases, and line-of-business software applications that possibly could only be accessed on your business network. Since low network requirement is used on most remote desktop software, it is ideal for low-bandwidth environments. Most remote desktop software also have features such as file sharing, multiple displays, and the ability to almost do everything on the remote PC.

Security issues are one of the main concerns in remote desktop software. This includes a vulnerability that have made remote desktop software sessions susceptible to compromise by unauthorized users. One of the cyber-attacks that I have previously discussed is the Brute Force attack. However, modern versions of remote desktop software offer many security features to counteract such attacks.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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Image from HowStuffWorks

A VPN or Virtual Private Network uses advanced encryption and network tunnel to create a secure point-to-point internet connection between a user and a network. Business networks can connect with each other, and remote workers can access sensitive data from a business network without the risk of exposure to unauthorized users. This is obviously more secure than an open public Wi-Fi network, which offers no such protection. A VPN is usually recommended so that the connection would not be compromised if the user did not set up the internet connection’s security;  this is usually the case if you are connected to a Public Wi-Fi.

Because internet traffic and user identity are protected with encryption, VPN is technically a security solution. This would only encrypt and hide the internet identity of the user instead of using the public’s IP address provided by their network provider.

There are several disadvantages, however, when using a VPN as a remote work solution. Since VPNs require a lot of network bandwidth, this would necessitate a stable connection between the two. It also uses an encrypted and/or tunneling process, resulting in the connection between the two becoming slower, even when using having a fast internet connection. VPN does not compress or optimize data but only encrypts the network connection, having a huge file transfer between the two can have a noticeable impact on the performance of the VPN.

Finally,  specific firewall configurations are often required; this usually needs advanced network configuration to ensure that both end points would be able to communicate properly, without the firewall triggering a false positive alarm of the connection.

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Image from IBVPN

VPN or Remote Desktop Software or Both?

If your organization makes use of encryption to make sure that your internet connection is secured, and you you are already able to connect to your organization’s tools and software, a VPN solution is generally an effective solution. You should be able to remotely access network resources without performance or security issues.

If you need a wide range functionality, a remote desktop software solution is the better choice. Although some of remote desktop software requires installation and configuration in place of a VPN, once properly installed, the remote desktop software will be the same for remote workers since it is the same computer they are using in their work environment. Since it requires only a stable internet connection, this would be an easy means of setup moving forward. 

Remote desktop software can also be combined with VPN to provide maximum functionality and security, if the organization needs to add extra layers of security.

Conclusion

If you are looking for an easy-to-use remote desktop software for your company, I will recommend going with AeroAdmin.

AeroAdmin would work even behind NAT and it does not need any advanced configuration for you to be able to connect to a remote PC. AeroAdmin also works with VPN if you want an added protection, though the AeroAdmin sofware itself is already safe to use.

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2 Replies to “VPN vs Remote Desktop Software: Which is Which?”

  1. VPN still requires some efforts to configure it. Third party free and even paid VPN services can’t be considered as trusted and there is a huge risk of data leak.

    Moreover, you can access data using VPN on the remote side, but you can’t use the remote software installed and tied to it.

    In my opinion, remote desktop software like aeroadmin or teamviewer or anything else is the easiest way to connect a remote PC and have full access to it, provided it can pass through NAT.

  2. I use VPN and RDP in a different way. I use VPN if I just need to mask my identity and be sure not to get tracked, while I use RDP just for my remote work.

    I didn’t consider the possibility of using VPN under RDP.
    Great Article!

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